EDEN PRARIE, Minn. — With the soaring construction of the new Vikings stadium in the background, a Minnesota construction worker announced the Vikings selection of a building blocker for the future.
Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel introduced Lesley Singer, a labor foreman with Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction, to announce the fourth-round selection of T.J. Clemmings at the 110th overall spot.
Clemmings was tuning in when his name was called, even if he had hoped it might be announced a day or two earlier. He said he was grateful to be selected by Minnesota because of the coaching staff and opportunity ahead.
"Where I am is where I'm supposed to be," Clemmings said. "We stayed real positive, and kept saying the right team will draft you at the right time. I believed that, and kept saying that with my family. I got the call from Minnesota today and believe I'm at the right place."
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said scouts graded Clemmings a "lot higher than when we drafted him."
There was some speculation that the stock of Clemmings took a hit because of a foot injury, but Spielman said the team doesn't expect it to be an issue.
"We found out about it at the combine. We did a lot of calling on him, double-checking and triple-checking today," Spielman said. "We feel that it was an old injury that was there, it was discovered at the combine, he did not miss any practices during the year at Pitt, he did not miss any practices down at the Senior Bowl, he worked out at the combine, we had our offensive line coaches at Pitt and he worked out there at Pitt as well.
"We're very excited that we were able to get a guy of that caliber, of that talent, that we were able to get him in the fourth round," Spielman added.
Clemmings first played basketball only but added football into the mix as a junior because he thought it might create more scholarship opportunities.
"I didn't play because my mom didn't understand the sport and saw it to be, not extremely dangerous, but that's how she felt," Clemmings said. "I thought about it, but I was still playing basketball. She changed her mind in her junior year. My dad kind of said, 'Let him play.' "
Clemmings said his first coach kept it "real simple for me."
"Coach just said, 'Whoever has the ball, get them, and take them down as hard as you can,' " he said.
Clemmings lettered for four years at Pittsburgh, a span that he began as a defensive reserve and blossomed when he crossed the line of scrimmage to play right tackle. Clemmings started 13 games at the post in 2013 and 13 more in 2014, earning first team All-ACC honors by media and coaches as a senior. He was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week three times in 2014 and invited to the Senior Bowl.
He switched to get more playing time, picked up on terminology and technique and said he noticed another change in his style of play.
"A switch did happen when I switched to the offensive side of the ball," Clemmings said. "I just had a nastiness or a certain aggression I didn't have on defense that grew while I was on offense, and that's what I based my play off of."
Spielman said when reviewing tape of Clemmings from his junior to senior season, it was "pretty remarkable for how quickly he picked that up."
"We went down to the Senior Bowl. It probably was not as great of a week as he probably anticipated; we moved him over to the left side a little bit, he's basically been on the right side, but we're very excited to get an opportunity to work with him," Spielman said. "He has the athletic skillset to play both sides, and I know our coaches, offensive coaches and offensive line coaches were very excited to get an opportunity to work with this kid just because of the tremendous upside that he has."
The time Clemmings spent at Pittsburgh included four coaching changes: Dave Wannstedt (2010), the introduction of Mike Haywood as his replacement for two weeks before Haywood was fired, followed by a redshirt season with Todd Graham (2011) and playing the past three seasons under Paul Chryst (2012-14), who became Wisconsin's new head coach.
"I wasn't having the success I wanted on defense, and I just wanted another opportunity," Clemmings said. "The opportunity came for me to play offense in my last two years at Pitt. I wanted to help the team and I did that. It turned out pretty good for me."